The snow is coming down . . . 10 inches already! And another 10 hours of snowing to go. Every vantage point looks like a Christmas card, the prettiest winter scene.
Inside, we've got cookies baking and carols playing. It's kind of nice to be sequestered like this, the weekend before Christmas. No running around for one last thing . . . and then one more. Just home, inside (between shoveling shifts, that is), cozying in for Christmas.
Here's what I'm making . . . a must, every year:
Spicy Ginger Drops
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
½ c. dark brown sugar, packed
½ c. granulated sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 c. robust (unsulphured) molasses
2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. minced crystallized ginger
1 ½ c. confectioner's sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
2 TB milk
1. Heat oven to 350*.
2. Beat butter, sugars, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and vanilla in a large bowl with mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy.
3. Add egg; beat until blended. Beat in molasses. On low speed, beat in flour and minced ginger.
4. Drop heaping teaspoons 1" apart on ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake 8 - 10 minutes until light brown on top. Cool on sheet 2 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
6. Icing: Stir ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over cookies, sprinkle with nonpareils while icing is still soft. Allow icing to dry at least 30 minutes.
Note: These cookies get better after they've sat a few days. Yum!
Well, we went to the Christmas concert at my kids' school last night. If you missed the prelude to this story, you can find it at An Encounter with a Scrooge. To say I was lacking the spirit would be an understatement. Gritted teeth and folded arms . . . I offered those around me $50 if they'd boo the music teacher's bow at the end. No takers. Drat! Catholic school parents can be such goodie-goodies sometimes.
That was a tough night, but we all got through it, and I'm exceedingly proud of my son for still wanting to go. All I can say is he's a bigger man than me . . . and that's saying something since he's nine and, well, I'm a woman.
Remember a few posts ago, in A Chance to be Profound, I told you about a little Christmas shopkeeper who was so kind to me, at a time when my spirit really, really needed it? I just got word that the shop is struggling this year. Really struggling. As the shopkeeper's sister wrote in a comment to that post just today, Demory's is "going through tough times right now." (gulp) We all know what that means in these tough times.
The thought of this particular shop closing makes my heart heavy, not because of anything in particular in their store -- though all their merchandise is lovely and fairly priced -- but because of the kindness and ethic that came along with the merchandise. That is a rare commodity that we have undervalued for far too long, don't you agree?
How's your Christmas shopping going?
Are you finished?
If you are, how did it go? Were you treated kindly? Did you leave the store feeling better than you did when you came in? Probably not.
In fact, when was the last time you left a store feeling beholden to the shopkeeper for treating you so well? I'll bet most of you can't remember. And if you can, it was a little shop like Demory's.
If you're not finished, why?
Are you out of ideas? Any chance they would like something from a little Christmas shop in Maryland?
How is your spirit feeling this season? Christmas and otherwise. I know mine waxes and wanes . . . and often this time of year, I keep my eyes open for that last little something to do to make the season brighter for someone else, thereby replenishing my Christmas spirit as well.
Well, I found it.
And I pass it along to you as well: Shop the shoppe!
If you need a gift for someone yet . . . consider a Christmas item from Demory's. Big or small, I know they'd love your business.
If nothing else, at least visit their website, for a unique experience . . . the website reflects the person, not only the merchandise . . . very refreshing.
Feel free to grab the button for your own blog and help me spread the word. (I feel just like Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail . . . "Can we save the Shop Around the Corner???" If only I had her cute hair . . . but I digress . . . let's get to work!)
Let the LORD be magnified,
which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
Each year, my husband finds a way to take just one more day off before Christmas and we go Christmas shopping, just the two of us. Well, not Christmas shopping as in grandpa-needs-a-new-bowling-bag-and-mom-would-like-new-slippers, the real Christmas shopping . . . you know.
As the parents of a 9 year old who still believes as well as a 6 year old, we take our Santa-duties very seriously. As soon as we drop the kids off at school, our tires screech as we peel off to begin our shopping. We make a day of it and always manage to use every single minute . . . and then a few more just to make it interesting. We spend our time in the carpool line frantically rearranging and covering all our loot so it cannot be seen by our most innocent passengers about to pile in. It takes a lot of work when your 9 year old believes . . . you must be come craftier and cleverer.
Yesterday, we went to see Santa Claus. No. Really. Grab a cuppa or a bowla and get comfy . . . let's go see Santa Claus . . .
Did you know that Santa, Jr. resides in North America? Pennsylvania, to be exact. Think real hard, and I bet you can guess the name of his town . . . Paradise. Makes sense that Santa Jr. could be found in Paradise, Pennsylvania, doesn't it?
Here it is; here's where the magic of your childhood Christmases resides. In an effort to preserve the innocence and excitement of childhood Christmases, Santa Jr. has made a museum of all the wonderful Christmas items he has amassed over his long, magical life, and he shares them with us, here, at The National Christmas Center.
Tell me, how far would you travel to visit your childhood again? If you can, run -- don't walk -- to this magical place.
Okay, ready? Got your cuppa and get settled . . .
See that familiar image above? That is the famous Coca Cola scene . . . Santa at the mantle, reading his note, while excited children look on (see them, behind the tree?), a bottle of Coke on the mantle all the while. Looks like a picture, doesn't it? Well, it isn't. It's life-size here, and it's real. Peer through a window and see into a house decorated in the true 1950s style -- bubble lights, plastic ornaments, even the chrome dinette set in the kitchen. The t.v. in the corner blares with the Howdie Doodie Show . . . the Christmas episodes, of course. Maybe you really can go home again.
Remember lying under the Christmas tree when you were a child? Remember when you thought nothing of sliding right underneath the boughs to look up at all the lights and decorations? You can do it again! This time, with no creaks in your back or aching knees . . . because you're standing! The whole room is oversize scale, making you feel like you're a wee one again . . . and you're right under the Christmas tree -- which covers almost the entire ceiling of the enormous room -- mesmerized by the lights, the decorations, the moving trains, and the unmistakable hi-fi sound of Christmas tunes on vinyl.
See the brown trunk in the middle? The branches coming out from there? You really do feel like a kid again.
Did you know that Woolworth's was the first retail store in America to carry Christmas decorations? Well, it was. And do you know which of them was the very, very first? The one in Pennsylvania. Well, as you can imagine, Santa Jr. has a special place in his heart for Woolworth's and pays special homage to the establishment with a room he has stuffed and stocked and decorated to replicate just how that first Christmas in Woolworth's must have looked.
Only 10 cents? I'll take them all!
A feast for the eyes!
Care for a candy?
The trees with the bubble lights are hard to find. My husband and I devoted years to affording one and finding one . . . and here they used to sit en mass. Amazing to see.
What does your dolly need?
My favorite thing in the world to shop for might be vintage Christmas items . . . this room just fills me with joy.
However, it's time to move on . . . Santa does encourage sharing, after all.
There is a walk through a little fairy tale as thought up by Santa Jr., himself. As you might expect, it's cute as a button and brings home the real meaning of Christmas.
A sheep after my own heart.
If ever there was a Christmas turtle . . .
But, lest you get caught up in all the Santa regalia and glitz of Christmas, the most important matters are. indeed, addressed before you leave. In life-size, yet astonishing detail . . .
The look on this wise man's face brought me goosebumps, but, alas, the camera failed to truly capture it.
I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to The National Christmas Center. I know I did. My heart is rejuvenated with the fun and the spirit and the meaning of Christmas, and in that spirit, I make this fervent Christmas wish:
It was the first snow of the season on Saturday. Here are some scenes from our own backyard:
The pigeons, Chicken & Dumpling, finally blend into their surroundings . . . their snowy white usually beams like a beacon.
Look at my sweet, little Dumpling . . . he thinks he's fancy -- and he is! Sometimes he looks just like a big snowflake with a beak.
And here is my little Chicken. She's not a chicken, she's a pigeon, but we named her that because we thought she looked like a chicken . . . that is, until we got real chickens. Anyway, I love her and she feeds my soul . . . when I look at her, I hear a soft music box play in my head. She looks just like something out of a nursery rhyme.
My son tried to get a chicken to come out and play . . . it was her first look at snow; her answer was a resounding, "No!"
Delusions of Reindeur!
Such fun he is in the snow.
Even St. Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, had to just pause and behold, for it was such a beautiful day.
If you were lucky, like I, you had several Christmases of pure joy. Your life was complete; everyone you knew and loved was part of the season, right there on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
There was no one missing. You missed no one and nothing. It was all before you.
Every Christmas decoration was pure fun, pure beauty. No pangs of melancholy over the sequined ornament your long-passed grandmother made; no yearly swoon of regret over the dropped ceramic Christmas tree you cherished; no mournfulness over a missing loved one.
No dish you would give almost anything to taste one more time and get the exact recipe for. It was all there, before you, more of it than you could ever eat.
No family picture you wish you'd taken while everyone was there. They were all there and it seemed they always would be, and it was so loud, you couldn't hear yourself think.
No coveted decoration that has since been lost. If it was Christmas, the flocked Santa, sleigh, and reindeer were on the hi-fi. You just assumed your Christmas tree would always look like that, and that certain thing would always be in that certain spot. These days, there isn't even a hi-fi.
No song that brings a tear to your eye or a momentary ache to your heart. All Christmas songs were just songs. "Blue Christmas" was sung the same way as "Jingle Bells;" "I'll Be Home For Christmas" seemed sort of sappy, but you sang along anyway, hoping something snappy like "Rudolph" was next. You heard your mother's Christmas albums ad nauseum.
No sight you would seriously consider giving almost anything to see one more time. Your eyes were heavy and exhausted by all the brilliant, blissful sights of a Christmassy day.
Ahhh, the Christmas of a child. So simple. So simply joyful.
Don't misunderstand; I love my Christmases these days as a mother, with children of my own. I longed to sing carols to my own children one day and to see Christmas lights reflected in their eyes. My dreams have come true, and it is even more than I dreamed it would be.
As I get older . . .
How my heart also aches for people I miss this season and the joy they brought to my life, for a simple Christmas again when my whole world, my whole past, present, and, seemingly, future, were under the same roof.
And when everything was simple . . . or seemed that way.
Oh, to come into my grandmother's house one more time on Christmas Eve and smell all that wonderful food, hear her Nat King Cole record playing, and see her standing at the stove in her apron and slippers. The red bow of her apron ties looked just like a Christmas wrapping . . . and, surely, they were . . . for she was one of the most precious gifts of my lifetime.
And I miss her deeply each and every Christmas now . . . and always will.
I guess I've had a visit from The Ghost of Christmas Past as that is where my heart seems to be today . . . with those in my past; how blessed I am to remember them all.
You'll have to pardon me this morning, I'm still reeling.
Just as an encounter with kindness at the right moment can soothe your spirit, an encounter with cold indifference can scorch your heart.
My son had to quit the school Christmas play this morning because the rehearsal schedule has become too demanding.
Now, as parents, we don't usually condone or allow quitting, but quitting is when you have agreed to do something and then refuse. My son never agreed to this rehearsal schedule; actually, at no time, has the music teacher revealed the rehearsal schedule more than a day or two in advance. I believe expecting 9 and 10 year olds to miss 3 recesses and lunch hours a week for rehearsal -- for months on end -- is wildly unreasonable. Bear in mind, most of these kids, like my son, have 2 lines and then proceed to stand on their mark for the duration of the concert. While I am sure it will be wonderful, Broadway it is not. I thought the point of a school play was to kindle, in children, an interest and enthusiasm for the performing arts; to encourage them toward music and participation, not to provide the teacher a stage to live out her career frustrations to the detriment of the children.
Because these rehearsals deprive my son of any break between his morning and afternoon classes, he is beginning to struggle with his afternoon classes and admits he cannot concentrate after having no break in his day. (No talking or recreation of any kind is allowed during these rehearsals.) I spoke with the music teacher yesterday regarding the difficulties my son is having; she informed me that my son was free to quit. When I asked her how she could so easily replace him if all these rehearsals were so vital, she explained that she had plenty of understudies. (Talk about delusions of grandeur!) So cold she was . . . I pity her that.
So after a couple hours of discussion and tears last night, my son decided he would rather return to his school routine than continue with this rehearsal schedule. All his enthusiasm, all his dedication, all his hard work squandered for a music teacher's confused priorities. I, myself, am still reeling from watching my son suffer with the realization that either option is a painful one. He's only 9.
Your heart never hurts quite like it does when your child hurts.
I just kissed him goodbye this morning, and wished him a good day, knowing his heart was heavy and hurt.
I will get on with my day now, re-inspired in my mission to create a warm, safe, happy home . . . with lots of Christmas cheer. My little boy will come to a home with Christmas trees shining, stockings hung, and whatever wonderfulness I can accomplish during these hours.
The storefront glittered and gleamed with holiday lights, artificial snowflakes, and glittering figures. The four of us looked at each other; eyes big . . "Okay, just remember . . . no touching," we reminded the kids. "Now let's go have fun!"
As we entered the Christmas shop, we were overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, and even smells of Christmas. I was initially drawn to the Fontanini nativity figures. My son, however, beckoned for us all to "Come here!" He was enamored with a newest Christmas village (or so it seemed to us), the neighborhood from "A Christmas Story." Yep, there was Ralphie in his pink bunny suit, there was the house bedecked with Christmas lights, the Chinese restaurant, Scut Farkus & his toadie, all of it. Well, not all of it. We longed for the school and the flagpole. I'm sure that will be along soon. Such fun we all had looking at all the vignettes.
Soon we moved on . . .
There were Christmas villages and ornaments in every hue and genre and nightlights and nutcrackers and candles and flags and music boxes and table clothes and advent calendars and tree skirts and cookie jars and perfume bottles and anything else you can imagine. Chocolates? Yes, even chocolates.
We had such fun picking things out for here and for there. It's not every day I find a glittery tree ornament in the perfect shade of lavender for my powder room!
I had spied a few things the kids should have -- from Santa Claus, of course, so my husband, ever-the-helpful elf, ushered the kids outside while I paid for our picks along with a few more things "Santa" picked out. As the shopkeeper rang up my order, he picked up two things and asked, "Are these for your children?"
"Yes," I said, "they are."
He put them on the table next to him without ringing them. "Free," he said. "I've never had such nice children in my store. Consider these my gifts to them."
How very kind and unexpected. I thanked him and hurried out to the kids, eager to share the kindness with them. They were so excited to receive their surprise hologram-Christmas glasses (I'll have to get a picture.). Imagine how cute they looked sporting their new 3-D glasses as they re-entered the store and thanked the shopkeeper. Such a sweet and proud moment for me as well as them.
Simple kindness profoundly affects a wanting heart.
It has been a long road with my daughter. Most days bring struggle, sometimes smiles are scarce; sometimes my heart struggles to see progress. This kindness from the shopkeeper was the nod of encouragement my husband and I so desperately needed on that day, at that moment.
This holiday season, I have no advice on dressing your mantle or sprucing up your tree. But I do implore you: Show a kindness when the spirit moves you. Do not let that moment pass. Don't let that person leave without the thing they may so deeply need. We so often have no idea the weight of our actions . . . good and bad, expressed and still. Be kind. Be gentle. Do that thing that crosses your mind.
If the budget is tight, this pie is practically free to make as it calls for nothing you don't already have. It isn't much in the looks department, but tastes wonderful . . . this is one of those old-fashioned recipes fashioned by capable, creative women who knew what hard times were and how to make something out of nothing. Bless them all.
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
1 (10 inch) unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add the beaten egg, butter, and vanilla.
Mix well and add the milk.
Pour mixture into an unbaked 10 inch pie crust (glass pie plate is best).
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Let cool and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.
This is a delicious condiment full of chunky apples, zesty ginger, chewy raisins, and, of course, tart cranberries. Wonderful served on either hot or cold turkey."
Spicy Cranberry Chutney
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup water
3 cups fresh cranberries (1 bag)
1 Granny Smith apple - peeled, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, raisins and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir while simmering for 5 minutes. Stir in cranberries, apple and lemon zest; simmer for 10 minutes more.
Stir lemon juice, ginger and pepper flakes into the mixture before removing from heat. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be...’ - she always called me Elwood - ‘...in this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”~Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey
I am a stay-at-home mom who is coming to grips with the fact that my children are growing up, and that is bitter sweet. I have several pets who understand me including a couple dogs, some beautiful pigeons (yes, pigeons), some chickens who boss me around, and a mourning dove who I believe is God's little whisper to me from heaven. I was a lawyer before I got really serious and became a mom. I love to knit, write, cook, and to take good care of my family. We struggle with my daughter's Reactive Attachment Disorder, and hold hands very tightly sometimes while we withstand the high tide of her challenges. Through it all, I am blessed to have a husband who is the corner piece to my puzzle.